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The blog of Alison Clark, the Congregational Development Officer for the diocese.

This space gives me an opportunity to offer my reflections on the events of our diocese from my perspective, to share any resources I’ve found useful and, I hope, to start a few conversational hares running.  The newsletter reports on the main diocesan events, so unless I’ve something in particular to say about them, I won’t major on them in this blog.


Meeting in small groups by admin - 0 Comment(s) Leave a comment
22-09-2015
One of the ways forward for worshipping communities is to meet in small groups outside of the regular Sunday worship - or indeed where and when there is no such provision, in a remote location for example. Bible study groups, prayer groups, social action groups - they can have a wide range of purposes. One of the benefits is the opportunity to share thoughts and experiences at a more personal level than is possible at the standard church service. Given the small size of many of our congregations, you might think there is less need for it because folk can look out for each other, share ideas over coffee etc. However, it can be difficult to gather a viable group with the same interest from a small congregation. One of the ways we've handled that is to run cross-diocesan study and discussion groups that have taken place by phone conference with a couple of face-to-face meetings in the year. At its height, 7 congregations were represented. If you have in mind to get together with fellow Christians for reflection or study, you'll find some interesting material on the Methodist website www.meetpraylove.co.uk. It is an ecumenical initiative and as it happens the short video clip on the Home page features an Episcopalian.
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Generous hospitality by admin - 0 Comment(s) Leave a comment
08-09-2015
The following article is posted by permission of David McEwan, Lay Chaplain of St Kiaran's, Campbeltown. It appeared as the pastoral letter in St Kiaran's recent newsletter and turns out to be even more relevant as the news of the refugee crisis unfolds. Some months ago, my wife and I enjoyed a relaxing lunch in an Italian restaurant in Aberdeen. We were on a day trip from Glasgow, taking advantage of a special fare promotion on the train. The meal was excellent and the service friendly, welcoming and prompt. We could not make up our minds as to the nationality of the waitress. She spoke with a strong Scottish accent but at the same time there were inflections in her voice which suggested that she might be Italian. Her jet black hair seemed to confirm our thoughts. How wrong we were. We plucked up courage to ask, only to find out that she was from Latvia! As part of the European Union we are required to open up our workplace to any of the nations in the Union, just as we have access to their workplaces. Some people are now questioning this requirement and even resent workers from other countries coming to work here, but it is all too easy to forget how Scotland, along with the rest of the United Kingdom, has had a long, long history of imposing itself on other countries worldwide, sometimes with unhelpful results. In biblical times, travel between countries was common and the same tensions which exist now, existed then too. Paul, for example, was a native of modern-day Turkey, but first learned about Christianity in Syria and took that message throughout the Mediterranean countries – Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Italy and even had plans to visit Spain. Being hospitable to foreigners was part and parcel of not just Jewish culture, but Arab culture too. Even the most holy of religious observances – the Jewish Passover – was open to foreigners. Generosity of spirit is very important. It is always a challenge, but the bible reminds us that when we do offer hospitality to people from other countries, we are, as it were, entertaining Christ himself. That must surely be good and worthwhile, so, when we are faced with this, let’s make every effort to try to respond in as positive and as welcoming a way as we can.
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Prayer Solidarity Today by admin - 0 Comment(s) Leave a comment
24-08-2015
The July diocesan newsletter mentioned that the 24th of each month is designated for prayers for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The SEC is a partner in this initiative with the Church of Scotland and other bodies. Here's what the website says: We (Church of Scotland) are joining with Christians around the world to pray for peace in the Middle East on the 24th of each month. We pray with and for our sisters and brothers in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory who have called for an ecumenical prayer vigil across the globe on the 24th of every month. The Church of Scotland is joining this movement with Christian Aid and the Scottish Episcopal Church and in partnership with the worldwide ACT Alliance. ACT Alliance is a coalition of more than 130 churches and affiliated organisations working together in 140 countries to create positive and sustainable change in the lives of poor and marginalised people regardless of their religion, politics, gender, sexual orientation, race or nationality in keeping with the highest international codes and standards.
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Our ordinands by admin - 0 Comment(s) Leave a comment
19-06-2015
Elaine Garman and Rosemary Bungard will be ordained as deacons at St John's Cathedral on Saturday 27th June at 1pm. Please pray for them as they take this important step in their ministry. They have been preparing through the Scottish Episcopal Institute and, in Elaine's case, also the University of Aberdeen. Their formation and studies will continue albeit at a less intensive level! For those unfamiliar with the detail, ordination as a deacon carries the title of 'reverend' and in some cases may involve a call to the permanent diaconate. In other words the candidate has made a positive choice to serve as a deacon rather than to seek ordination as a priest. The diaconate is a calling to service and is indeed the fundamental vocation of all priests including bishops. In our tradition however, ordinands serve as deacons usually for one year before they are ordained priest when they are then able to fulfil their complete priestly ministry, including celebrating the sacrament of holy communion. Elaine and Rosemary will, God willing, follow this path. They will still be 'learning on the job' - you don't emerge from initial training fully fledged. Indeed the learning is lifelong. So do support them with your prayers and practical concern. We are blessed to have them!
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Being mindful by admin - 0 Comment(s) Leave a comment
01-06-2015
As you may have seen in the newsletter and on Facebook, our diocesan retreat in October will be on 'Christian Mindfulness'. Some people are sensitive to words or activities which they see as coming from outside 'their' tradition. True the word 'mindfulness' has reached the popular consciousness through, among others, the work ofJon Kabat-Zinn who took the Buddhist teaching and 'secularised' it as a meditation practice to promote wellbeing. The fact that this teaching has come afresh to modern awareness does not mean that it has not been going on for millennia and in most if not all religious traditions including Judaism the religious culture of Jesus himself. In the Christian tradition, we find reference to 'meditation', to 'contemplation' and to 'mysticism'. Across the UK, groups meet to pray and meditate together, some as Julian groups inspired by Julian of Norwich. For some of us words like 'mystic' or 'mysticism' may suggest (wrongly) an esoteric path that's not for the like of us. Christian mindfulness has in my view the advantage that it is very practical helping us to still ourselves and focus, not always easy in a world of information overload. Sister Carmel Byrne who will lead our retreat says: 'Through it (mindfulness) we tap into the flow of love and energy within the Trinity, which we share with others in mission'. Details and application form for the retreat may be downloaded by clicking on the link on the home page of the diocesan website.
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